LANCASTER – A local business owner who led several youth groups while volunteering at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lancaster is guilty of molesting a boy he met at the church.
An Antelope Valley jury on Tuesday found 35-year-old Richard Michael Kelso guilty of six felony sex crimes – three counts of contact with a minor for sexual offense, two counts of lewd act upon a child, and one count of inducing a child to engage in a lewd act, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami, who prosecuted the case.
“A man who was preying on young people at his church is now behind bars and will have to finally accept responsibility for his actions,” Hatami said. “Our community is safer after the jury’s verdict.”
Kelso’s sex crimes occurred during the summer of 2013 and involved a then 15-year-old male victim who was a member of Kelso’s confirmation group at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lancaster, according to prosecutor. Hatami used the victim’s testimony, along with phone records, recorded statements from Kelso and text messages to describe for the jury how Kelso encouraged and manipulated sexual interactions between the male victim and a 14-year-old girl. Kelso did so because he was “getting off on it,” the prosecutor said.
“He’s a weasel, a predator, a sexual deviant and a lot more things,” Hatami told the jury.
In his closing statement, Hatami read several text messages Kelso sent to the male victim. Kelso discussed giving the boy a “tour” of the boy’s body to show him “where everything is,” he discussed the measurements of the boy’s penis, and he encouraged the boy to shave his pubic hairs and discussed the possibility of helping him, according to the text messages read by the prosecutor.
“You will be a professional when we are done,” read one of the text messages, purportedly from Kelso to the 15-year-old male victim.
In proving the molestation charges against Kelso, the prosecutor played a recorded conversation of Kelso admitting to the male victim’s father that he had touched the boy’s penis. The conversation was recorded by the victim’s father when he confronted Kelso at Kelso’s home, according to the prosecutor.
During his closing statement, defense attorney Michael Williamson described Kelso as a “standup guy” who provided for his family, as well as his employees at the Kelso Investigative Group.
The text messages presented by the prosecutor were taken out of order and out of context; and the male victim’s story was inconsistent and lacked credibility, the defense attorney argued. He said Kelso was only “trying to advise a young man who was asking for advice.”
Williamson also pointed out that the girl’s version of the events did not match the male victim’s story. The girl who had a relationship with the male victim in 2013 is not named as a victim in the criminal complaint. She testified during the trial as a defense witness.
“You should find that this case is built on speculation, innuendo, conjecture and assumption…” Williamson told the jury in his closing statement.
The jury deliberated for two hours Tuesday before finding Kelso guilty on all counts. Kelso, who was out on bond, was remanded to custody.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 13, 2016. Kelso faces a possible maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.